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December 2nd, 2010

The Money Behind Branstad’s Comeback

It has been said that money is the mother’s milk of politics. There are a number of factors that go into building a successful campaign, but if you don’t have the necessary financial resources, your campaign probably isn’t going to get very far.

Terry Branstad enjoyed widespread financial support for his comeback campaign in 2010. Branstad raised over eight million dollars from over 13,000 contributors. While the volume of donors in impressive, a significant portion of the funds that he raised was generated by a small group of donors.

Branstad’s top twenty individual donors accounted for over $1.5 million, or just over 18 percent, of the total amount that he raised for his campaign. Some of the names that appear on this list are the usual suspects, but others are not.

The Branstad Campaign Top 20 Individual Donors

Bruce Rastetter: $164,875.52
Hawkeye Energy Holdings, LLC – Iowa Falls, Iowa

Eldon & Regina Roth: $152,000.00
Beef Products Inc. – Dakota Dunes, South Dakota

Denny & Candy Elwell: $115,975.00
Denny Elwell Company – Ankeny, Iowa

Mark Falb: $101,000.00
Westmark Enterprises, Inc. – Dubuque, Iowa
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co

Joe Crookham: $100,000.00
MUSCO Lighting – Oskaloosa, Iowa

Gary Kirke: $76,246.44
Wild Rose Entertainment – West Des Moines, Iowa

Dale & Marilyn Howard: $75,000.00
Dale Howard, Inc – Iowa Falls, Iowa

Jan Krantz: $75,000.00
Adventureland Park – Altoona, Iowa

Nick Ryan: $67,196.85
Concordia Group, LLC – Des Moines, Iowa

Henry Tippie: $60,000.00
Retired – Austin, Texas

Don Lamberti: $56,000.00
Founder, Casey’s General Stores – Ankeny, Iowa

Ed Babka: $55,000.00
Retired Publisher – Dubuque, Iowa

John Smith: $54,146.74
CRST International
– Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Jeff & Debra Hansen: $50,000.00
Iowa Select Farms – Iowa Falls, Iowa

Margaret Kenyon: $50,000.00
Kenyon Construction – Des Moines, Iowa

Toby Shine: $50,000.00
Shine Bros. Corp. – Spirit Lake, Iowa

Paul Singer: $50,000.00
Elliott Associates – New York, New York

Russell Stidolph: $50,000.00
Alt Energy – Norwalk, Connecticut

Maurice Sinclair: $45,100.00
Real Estate, Penara Bread Stores, Sigourney Tractor & Implement – Melrose, Iowa

John Butler: $42,625.00
Cottingham and Butler – Dubuque, Iowa

Some people snarl about the large individual contributions that Branstad and other candidates raise for their campaigns, but in reality, these contributions are necessary for Republican campaigns that don’t receive large donations from organized labor or state political action committees. Just as volunteers and local activists are critical to the success of any campaign, these large contributions are what allow campaigns to meet payroll and run television ads.

Branstad was also supported by a number of political action committees, but only one donated enough to break into Branstad’s list of top twenty donors, The Iowa First Foundation. The Iowa First Foundation is chaired by longtime Branstad friends and advisors Richard Schwarm and Doug Gross.

Over the past year, the Iowa First Foundation has listed only one donor, Richard Stark of Fort Dodge, who contributed $135,000. The Iowa First Foundations, which sponsored two polls in the spring and summer of 2009, contributed $70,000 to Branstad’s campaign.

The Branstad Campaign’s Top 5 PAC Contributors

Iowa First Foundation: $70,000.00
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation PAC: $41,787.44
Free and Strong America PAC: $30,219.70
Associated General Contractors of Iowa PAC: $30,000.00
Iowa Industry PAC: $25,050.00

While Branstad’s list of top twenty donors included some familiar names, there were a number of major donors who didn’t break into the top twenty. That list includes Jim Cownie ($25,500.00), Roger Underwood: ($25,220.00), Diane Crookham-Johnson: ($25,000.00), and Richard Jacobsen: $(25,000.00).

Branstad was able to bring a number of new major donors to his campaign, as well as reengaging some donors who have not given to recent Republican campaigns. Those people include:

Jan Krantz: $75,000.00
Margaret Kenyon: $50,000.00
Russ Gerdin: $25,000.00
Rod French: $25,250.00
William Metz: $35,000.00
Ed Ochylski: $30,000.00
Bill Krause: $38,250.00
Kyle Krause: $37,750.00

The Krauses had been dependable Republican donors until they had a public spat with Jim Nussle over the touch play lottery machines that became a major issue in the 2006 campaign. In that campaign, they ended up backing Chet Culver.

Branstad is probably one of the most gifted politicians in Iowa history just based on the fact that nobody can match his stellar 12-0 record in statewide elections. While Branstad has proved that he has wide appeal to Iowa voters, his appeal has also allowed him to be an outstanding fundraiser.

The good news for Iowa Republicans is that Branstad has found a way to bring a lot of new and old money back into the GOP politics. Having been a the most vocal cheerleader for down ballot Republicans throughout his 2010 campaign, Branstad will likely use his impressive donor file to help Republicans win control of the Iowa Senate in two years.

This means that Branstad’s comeback is not just about the former Governor getting his old office back, but rather, it is more about the reemergence of the GOP in Iowa.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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